With careless hands a child kills an ant, many ants. Flies are far trickier, though once caught, they have little chance. And if darting birds don’t grab them first, butterflies die a natural death; few people — collectors excepted — willfully steal such tremulous beauty.
It has the marks of permanent war. Beetles, good at hiding, keep close to the ground. Wisława Szymborska finds one dead on a dirt road, “three pairs of legs … neatly folded across its belly.” She stops and stares. “The horror of the site is moderate,” she writes. “Sorrow is not contagious.” But still doubt remains:
For our peace of mind, animals do not pass away,
but die a seemingly shallower death
losing — we’d like to believe — fewer feelings and less world,
exiting — or so it seems — a less tragic stage.
An uncommon sensibility. Almost like a child meeting death for the first time, grasping analogy, tentatively building a bridge. Tentatively. The poet is tentative. Her knowledge of the small (and sometimes large) acts of bad faith through which we live our lives is what makes the poem.
@ Insectopedia, Hugh Raffles, 2010.